Thursday, October 09, 2014

The attacks on Jonathan Agnew, which have driven him from Twitter, arecontemptible

The above are just two of the abusive Tweets from Piers Morgan which, understandably, contributed to Jonathan Agnew leaving Twitter yesterday. Those who know Aggers will not recognise the description of him as an "ECB stooge" or a "horrible man" - he is neither.

I have been listening to ball-to-ball commentaries on cricket on radio most of my life - 1953 was, I think, the first series I heard. I would place Agnew comfortably in the top four commentators - with Arlott, Johnston and Martin-Jenkins. Like them he has a lovely broadcasting voice, a deep love and knowledge of the game and great integrity. He is himself. That "himself" is someone with a hinterland - his "specialist subject" might be cricket. But when he interviews people as diverse as, say, Lily Allen or Ed Miliband he does his research and finds a way to build a connection between their world and the world of cricket. And Jonathan's ego is rarely on show either (if it exists). It's never about him.

As a fan of "Test Match Specisl" I usually listen to its commentaries when I am at the ground. There are one or two current commentators I can take or leave (no names, no pack drill) but I always listen to Aggers. He has the skill of going "off piste" in classic TMS style without it sounding contrived - not something, Henry Blofeld aside, the rest of the current team can manage. These wanderings, in the duller moments of the action or when it's raining, often suggest the Aggers hinterland without revealing it too much! In truth I think that he is quite a private person who, his international travels over more than two decades not excepted, is happiest with his wife and dogs in a pub in the Vale of Belvoir his home. Aggers various memoirs reveal almost nothing of the man within!

I once had a mild spat with Jonathan over his, and TMS's, choice of the champagne moment at one Test Match. He was hurt not because I criticised him personally (I didn't) but because I thought that the choice - of MS Dhoni at Trent Bridge in 2010 - reeked of political correctness and was a "Spirit of Cricket" driven aberration! We agreed to differ on this - a reasonably aimiable dispute and the sort that only cricket tragics would indulge in ! On this occasion Aggers was perhaps in "Establishment" mode but  to suggest, as Morgan and some others do, that he is an "ECB stooge" is ignorant and wrong. He has been a strong critic of the ECB frequently and his deep love of the game, as well as his duty as BBC Cricket Correspondent, means that if he believes they are wrong (they so often are, of course) he will say so. What he doesn't do is personal abuse - which doesn't mean that he doesn't sometimes receive it, and not just from Piers Morgan.

Aggers is often a target on Twitter - that comes, sadly, with the job. He is well known in the world of cricket and this leads to ignorant abuse - most often from the sub continent. You can block these abusers but there are always another hundred or so waiting their chance. Even more depressing is the occasional abuse from hacks who should know better. Like Brian Moore and others Aggers has been traduced in public by the likes of Charlie Sale in the Daily Mail. These personalised and offensive pieces should have no place in journalism, but tell a tabloid editor that and he'll laugh in your face!

Jonathan Agnew is more likely to know the "truth" about Kevin Pietersen (etc.) than most cricket commentators. This does not mean that he, therefore, has to take sides on this or any other contentious issue. I suspect that despite his insider status Aggers would struggle to find out what the "truth" is anyway. He is not Piers Morgan's opposite, anti KP where Morgan is pro. That sort of polarised position taking is foreign to his nature. He undoubtedly despairs when he sees the likes of Morgan try and kill the thing he loves, cricket, but his natural instinct is more to flee than fight vitriol with vitriol. Which is not to say that he won't defend his corner - you don't survive endless encounters with Geoffrey Boycott without developing a thickish skin!

This has been a terrible year or more for English cricket. Throughout it, in my view, Jonathan Agnew has retained his balance despite despair not being far away in his voice. He is not a conscienceless bruiser like Piers Morgan and he doesn't use the ubiquity of his media access to peddle bias as some have charged. This is not the first time Aggers' resilience has been put to the test. It's all quite unnecessary and unkind to a decent man, and a consummate professional.